When we were planning activities around Snow Falling on Cedars, we did not expect to run across an exhibition that inspired David Guterson to write his book. When we learned of Kodomo No Tame Ni (For the Sake of the Children) we knew it was an opportunity not to be missed.
This pictorial history of 100 years of life on Bainbridge Island was created in 1988 by the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community Association (BIJAC). It is dedicated to Issei and Nisei generations (the immigrants and their children) and is a legacy to their descendants so that Sansei and Yonsei (third and fourth generations) may understand their heritage. The exhibit has traveled to countless classrooms in Washington State and to historical museums all across the country. In 1993, the National Education Association presented BIJAC with the Ellison S. Onizuka Award which recognizes outstanding achievement in promoting human and civil rights.
When we set up the exhibit in early March, my coworkers and I spent time looking at the photos and reading the text. Because we’d read Snow Falling on Cedars, we already had some background history and this made the photographs even more meaningful. One image that continues to draw me is an oversized photo of a farmer holding out a big tray of strawberries. He is smiling, the strawberries are beautiful, and in the background are long and lush rows of strawberry plants. I cannot help but think about Kabuo’s dream to raise strawberries and how a piece of land had such a sad part in Guterson’s story. But the unnamed farmer is a real person. Real, too, were the circumstances that led him to be taken away from his livelihood on Bainbridge Island. I wonder if there was a strawberry farm for him to return to after being in the camps?
Another photo in the exhibit is that of a family sitting outside. A little boy wearing a woolen cap is clutching a toy tractor. Both boy and tractor have paper tags that were used to identify people and possessions as they were evacuated. We’re going to meet that little boy in just a few days. He is Dr. Frank Kitamoto, president of the Bainbridge Island Japanese Community Association. Dr. Kitamoto is our featured speaker on April 15 as we conclude this season of Reading Together.
Don't miss this beautiful collection of images and stories. For the Sake of the Children will be on display at KPL until noon on April 14. Its final showing will be the evening of April 15 at First Baptist Church.
Kodomo No Tame Ni - For the Same of the Children